Sound and vision blog

3 posts from November 2010

12 November 2010

Recording of the Week: English Conversation: The Theatre

Steve Cleary, Lead Curator, Drama and Literature Recordings, at the British Library, writes:

Early-spoken-word-recordings To mark the Library's current exhibition on the history and development of the English language here is a mildly amusing recording from Linguaphone's series of instructional English conversation discs. Other discs in the series feature advice on visiting a restaurant or a chemist's shop. This one offers the newcomer to the West End theatre scene invaluable instruction on matters such as booking a ticket over the telephone. Originally issued in 1929, when a programme would cost you just sixpence apparently.

'Recording of the Week' highlights gems from the Archival Sound Recordings website, chosen by British Library experts or recommended by listeners.

05 November 2010

Acquisition of oral history recordings

For the second oral history post on the ‘Sound Recordings’ blog I thought I’d give an introduction to the three ways that we acquire oral history material: through deposit; through fieldwork projects undertaken both by the Library's oral history section and National Life Stories; and also through external partnership projects. 

Recent additions to the oral history collections through deposit include the British Brass Musicians collection (collection number C1395) and the Chinese in Britain Radio Interviews (C1353).  Collections such as these are created and collected by external organisations and later deposited with the Library.  A key selection criteria is that a collection needs to be national in scope, whereas local projects would be referred to a local archive.  

The majority of the more recent oral history acquisitions are those accessioned through the projects run by National Life Stories, the charitable trust based within the British Library oral history section.  National Life Stories was established in 1987 and has been based within the British Library since 1988.  It runs a number of projects including Artists’ Lives (C466), Architects’ Lives (C467), Authors’ Lives (C1276), An Oral History of the Water Industry (C1364) and An Oral History of British Science (C1379) to name a few.  For more information on NLS projects, past and active, please visit the National Life Stories web pages.

We also acquire collections through external partnership projects, which may be academic research projects or community-based projects.  Recently acquired collections include ‘Unheard Voices: interviews with deafened people’ (C1345) and ‘Overseas Trained South Asian Geriatricians Interviews’ (C1356). ‘Unheard Voices’ was a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded project conducted by Hearing Concern LINK, a charity that provides information and support for those with hearing loss and their family members.  Sarah Smith, project co-ordinator for at Hearing Concern LINK wrote about the project in Playback 42.  ‘Overseas Trained South Asian Geriatricians Interviews’ is a collection comprising the interviews from an ESRC funded research project ‘Overseas Trained South-Asian Doctors and the Development of Geriatric Medicine Project’, carried out by Professor Joanna Bornat, Dr Parvati Raghuram and Dr Leroi Henry at the Open University.  The research project reanalysed the 'Oral History of Geriatrics as a Medical Speciality' collection, an earlier research project carried out by Professor Margot Jefferys which is also archived at the British Library ‘Oral History of Geriatrics as a Medical Speciality’ (C512).  The interviews from both Unheard Voices and Overseas Trained South Asian Geriatricians Interviews are now catalogued and accessible to listeners on-site at the British Library.   To find out how to listen visit the Listening & Viewing Service webpage.

03 November 2010

Voices of the UK - Evolving English, first exhibition dedicated to the English language

We are still working on the analyses of the Scottish data collected by the BBC. But afore ye go...

Jonnie, one of the Voices researchers, has been working for many months as part of the team who have made Evolving English: One Language Many Voices. The free exhibition will open to the public next week (on Friday 12th November) and run for six months in the British Library's main exhibition gallery.

Last week we began talking about the exhibition in the national press, and on TV and radio. One of the key features of the exhibition will be that visitors can contribute their own accents, words and voices to the national collection using recording booths in the library — and also online using the online voice-blogging application, AudioBoo — more details to come on this.

The BBC website ran a magazine feature (here) about how we pronounce the eighth letter of the alphabet, which we also wrote an information box for. Are you an /ɛɪʧ/ person or a /hɛɪʧ/ person? This reminded me of one of the last times the debate surfaced in the British media — the Guardian in London published a very prescriptive opinion piece on it in 2007, but I very much liked the response on the same page from poet, language activist and friend of the British Library sociolinguistics team, Michael Rosen (see here for Michael's remarks).

Catherine Burton has also blogged about the exhibition and the 'H question' for the Independent here.

We will write more about the exhibition on this blog in the coming weeks, but in the meantime you can plan your visit and book the related talks and events running through the exhibition at The same link will allow you to access the online parts of the exhibition once it's officially open next week.